Robert L. Ryan

Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning

Professor Ryan, FASLA is the Graduate Program Director for the Dual Degree Master’s Program in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.  His courses have an interdisciplinary framework, integrating the work of landscape architects, planners, and allied professionals in order to give students the skills to deal with increasingly complex interdisciplinary environmental problems.  His course People and the Environment shows students from a variety of disciplines how to apply environment and behavior research to design and planning.  He teaches the graduate MLA studio in landscape and greenway planning, senior BSLA integrated experience studio, and a sustainable green infrastructure seminar.

Professor Ryan's research addresses the question “What motivates people to become engaged in sustainable landscape design, planning, and management practices that benefit the environment, and how does that affect their attitudes and behaviors in the landscape?”  His studies on urban parks, rural landscapes, and national forests have shown that people’s connection to nearby nature or landscape (i.e., place attachment) is critical to developing better land stewardship.  A key part of this work has been to understand the landscape patterns that are both ecologically beneficial and perceived as beautiful by local residents. In addition, his research has shown that place attachment can help promote connections between local residents and urban parks, particularly those undergoing ecological restoration.   His research focuses on visual resource management, greenway and green infrastructure planning, and sustainable site design.  

He is a senior researcher on the UMass Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Research (IGERT) project to study offshore wind energy facilities (  

Ryan is the Co-PI of the Boston Metropolitan Area Urban Long-term Research Project (ULTRA), an NSF-funded study that explores the relationship between socioeconomic forces and urban ecosystem patterns and processes across a metropolitan region.  Within this project, his research focuses on using urban green space to ameliorate the challenges facing inner city residents (see the project webpage:  He is also currently working on a UMass Center for Agriculture project to study local residents' attitudes toward landscape water conservation and storm water management practices in the Ipswich River Watershed.

Dr. Ryan is the co-author of the award-winning book With People in Mind: Design and Management of Everyday Nature with environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan (Island Press, 1998), and author of a book chapter in Sustainable Sites Handbook, edited by Meg Calkins (Wiley, 2012).  He serves on the editorial board of the international journal Landscape and Urban Planning, and is technical advisor to the ASLA’s Sustainable Sites Initiative Human Health and Well-being Technical sub-committee. 

Recent Publications:

  • Robert L. Ryan. 2012. “Influence of Landscape Preference and Environmental Education on Attitudes Toward Wildfire Management in the Northeast Pine Barrens (USA).” Landscape and Urban Planning 107(1): 55-68.
  • Robert L. Ryan. 2011. “The Social Landscape of Planning: Integrating Social and Perceptual Research with Spatial Planning Information.” Landscape and Urban Planning 100(4):361-63.

Keywords: landscape preference, wildfire mitigation, wild land-urban interface, northeast United States, forest management, esthetics, environmental education, landscape perceptions, social science research, integrated landscape models